In West Cheshire College, Cheshire UK, “Students [are] made to carry ‘Orwellian’ locater tags – College staff and students have been issued with compulsory electronic badges that are capable of tracking their movements, leading to criticism of “Orwellian” tactics.”
How exactly does an establishment implement compulsory RFID tagging and still give the persons being tagged an option to consent?
If such a RFID tagging scheme can be compulsory and written consent is not gained from students what is to stop colleges and schools issuing RFID tags and not informing students? If a system is compulsory, presumably there is no room for non participants therefore no room for people to be able to make a choice in this matter, i.e. to consent.
Are persons not consenting then to write and ‘opt out’ of the RFID real time location system? Perhaps we in the UK are to see a repeat of the much criticised line the educational establishments took with taking children’s biometrics without parental consent, deemed to be such bad practice that parental consent is now needed by law for schools to take and process children’s biometrics up to the age of 18. This law is contained in the recent Protection Of Freedoms Act 2012. West Cheshire College caters for pupils 14-19 year olds.
Then there is the issue of possible discrimination that could accompany a “must wear” policy the college has for those not wearing RFID tags.
Certainly as a parent I would want to know exactly who was watching my under 18 child at college in real time and why and where would they be monitoring their movements, to the toilet, school showers? And I would not be happy with any discrimination my child may experience by not being RFID tagged, if indeed the college would enrol or employ a person refusing to wear RFID.
Just what are the college looking at? In the RFID Journal, Kevin Francis, West Cheshire College’s Building Services Area Manager, states: “We can search for individual [students or staff]. And we can look at them in groups, such as peer groups.” [NB. This RFID Journal article was withdrawn from the RFID Journal's website w/c 7 Jan 2013. A Copy of the article (pdf) is here and here is the original article on the Internet Archieve Wayback Machine] Then to the Telegraph: “We do have these tags, but they’re not for the purposes of tracking.”
Erm, yes they are. RFID tags track. Why else would West Cheshire College purchase a RFID ‘real time location tracking solution’? [ NB. Zebra Technologies withdrew the article from their website late February/early March 2013. A copy of the press release (pdf) is here and this is the Internet Archive Wayback Machine’s link to the original webpage]
Then comes the sell. Environmental – “The aim is to use the buildings as efficiently as possible.” Security – “We are interested in teaching and learning, building use and the security of
students and staff.”… oh yes and here comes safety – “Staff with first aid training can be identified if needed in an emergency.” and not to forget funding - “we use this information for funding purposes”. There we go.
The use of RFID may be about many issues but the issue surrounding consent, both for pupils, parents and staff, here is the most serious.
How can a compulsory RFID tracking scheme involve consent?